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Finding an au pair - agencies v aupair world, gumtree etc

(20 Posts)
tiggersreturn Tue 31-May-11 21:36:10

I have decided to find an au pair for August for about a year. I have a 4 year old ds starting school and am expecting twins in September. What I'd like the au pair to do is take ds to and from school for the first 8 weeks (and probably longer for taking to school), a bit of entertaining ds, help me with bathing all 3, nappy changing when around and basic cooking preparations for supper for all of us. Housework will mainly consist of helping sorting washing and putting on loads, general tidying (ie keeping the place from descending into chaos, putting plates into dishwasher, clearing up after yourself etc), changing of own bedding and ds and dts if need it (shared with me). No heavy cleaning as I'll still have a cleaner to do floors, ovens, toilets, sinks etc and regular hoovering. I'm also planning on getting a maternity nurse for nights for about a fortnight around the beginning (still haven't worked out which weeks). If anyone thinks this is too much for an aupair and more aupair plus please tell me!

I currently employ a nanny so know a bit about being an employer (my basic philosophy is that employment is a relationship and anything that I wouldn't want done to me I shouldn't do to a nanny, plus certainty of terms and appreciation of what is done is very important). However, my nanny isn't live-in so it'll be a whole new ball game for us.

I've been sent a number of profiles through an agency recommended by someone and I was wondering if people could give me their experiences of employing au pairs through agencies, aupair world, gumtree or anything else.

Also any tips for making the experience work successfully.

theotherboleyngirl Tue 31-May-11 22:10:52

well I've always used au pair world - it might be a nightmare time wise but doing all your own vetting/hunting tends to mean you get a better fit...

My situation actually sounded very similar to yours... My DT's are now 17 months and my DS was 3.5 when they were born. We had had au pairs previously and went for an au pair plus. Admittedly my DS was still at preschool not school, but I definitely benefitted from the longer hours. Once the DT's were 1 we dropped it to standard au pair (and actually our au pair who came when the DT's were a fortnight old is the one still with us so took an hours cut but we arranged some extra cleaning for her with friends, she's better off now).

The only thing I would say is it's probably quite important for you to do some of those early-days school pick ups and drop offs. Your elder child has got 2 huge changes coming his way and I actually found because my newborn twins were so sleepy it was actually far more beneficial for the AP to stay with them whilst I did the preschool runs. Even now they are 17 months as they are having their nap in the afternoons over school pick up, my AP stays with them so I can collect DS. And even now one of her primary roles is to look after the DT's so I can spend time with DS. Whether it's just luck, personality, or the fact I really use the AP to give time to DS, we haven't had even a hint of jealousy from DS, and bearing in mind he's now got 2 usurpers trashing his belongings I think that's a pretty good thing!

In the early days the AP was great for extra feeds too. Enabled me to basically instigate a routine whereby whatever I did with one I did with the other - the same still happens and it makes life with twins a lot easier when there is another child involved.

If you want to ask anything else feel free!

tiggersreturn Tue 31-May-11 22:24:31

Thanks a lot. That's really useful. Ds has been in nursery for the school since last September and I took a month off work to try and network help him settle in so I don't expect reception per se to be a big change. He'll just be moving to the next class with all his friends. Also I'm 99% likely to be having a cs so will not be in a state to walk the 7 mins to and from school if it's anything like the recovery with ds. I am intending once I'm functional again to arrange lots of after school play dates and have AP help with dts at that point so I can devote more time to ds and not have him feel left out. He is also keen on helping generally atm so I'd like to encourage that so we're all doing things with the babies.

How did the AP plus work out for hours per day? Ds' school day is 8.45 to 3.30 so I figured 2 hours in the morning and 3 in the afternoon would probably be fine.

tiggersreturn Tue 31-May-11 22:26:57

Or even 1 1/2 in the mornings and 3 1/2 in the evenings

catepilarr Wed 01-Jun-11 00:06:12

i think you already covered the most important bit about how to make it work with your ap, that is appreciate what she does /and dont ask her to do what you are not prepared to do yourself./ good luck.
ps. time wise i think it ok as you suggested.

theotherboleyngirl Wed 01-Jun-11 08:26:42

When she was working AP+ hours she would basically work 8.30am-5.30pm but with at least 1 hour off in the middle of that. The extra time I could have coped without, but I have severe arthritis and I'm sure the fact that during that time I didn't have to do any lifting meant I'm still doing ok arthritis wise now the twins are toddlers, whereas at this age with DS I was in agony. So a slightly different situation.

Now she does standard AP hours she does 7.30am-9.15am and 2.45pm-5.30pm. This covers the morning fun of getting 3 up including one to school and normally she fits some housework in then. In the afternoon she covers the school run - the girls are asleep for the first part so she might hoover or do some ironing, do some dinner preps, and then she gets them up and their snacks in time for DS and I to be back. Then it's just general pitching in where needed. She also baths the girls in this time as that's another thing my arthritis complains about!

I agree that treating them as you want to be treated is the way to go. Our current AP will have been with us 20 months when she leaves - we love each other to bits and I wouldn't hesitate in now calling her my friend, and it's been a really positive experience all round. We are also in touch with 2 of our previous au pairs and consider them family friends, and they come back to visit. If you get the relationship 'right' then it can be such a great thing.

harrietthespook Wed 01-Jun-11 12:12:31

Regarding recruitment, we will be starting with our third AP in September. I had great luck with an agency the first two times, but got sent unsuitable (even slightly bizarre) candidates this time around. We've just recruited from Au Pair World for September. I previiously tried to recruit from AP World for a Feb start and found it really painful but the September start seems to have worked. It's swings and roundabouts - if you find AP World just too tough going in terms of time wasters (and there are plenty) then you could try an agency. My feeling now is there is no perfect solution, a lot depends on the pool of people available at that particular point in time.

If you use an agency you still need to follow up their references and interview them (obviously). We haven't found much in the way of after support from them either but then the fee isn't so high - not sure if you might get more from another firm. But then again, quite possibly not, so not sure I'd bother experimenting.

SOme people do recruit successfully from Gumtree. Again we struggled but that was for the Feb start. People have different views on recruiting an AP who is already here - do they bring problems with them? But there are crazy families out there too and I can see why some APs switch.

tiggersreturn Wed 01-Jun-11 12:23:53

Harriet the agency is asking £260. Is that around what you paid? They come recommended by another childcare service that I get through work whose remit includes finding childcare solutions for you.

harrietthespook Wed 01-Jun-11 12:29:07

Yes, that's the one....starts with an A? Based in Brighton. Have named them before, I guess I'm shy now because we had a not so great exp this time around. They were great before tho. I paid £260, come candidates were more.

tiggersreturn Wed 01-Jun-11 12:36:54

Yes that's the one. Can I ask why you went through the 1st 2 if you were happy with them?

Pollyanna Wed 01-Jun-11 12:41:20

I have always recruited my au pairs through Gumtree. Am lucky to live in a city with alot of language students, and have had no problems finding really good girls. Had a few mistakes along the way, but the worst was with an au pair recruited through an agency - so there is no guarantee that an agency au pair will be better.

I find it easier to meet the au pairs in person before I "hire" them, and also to let them meet the children. I have had a couple of au pairs that have been fleeing from horrible families elsewhere in the UK and they have gone on to be my favourite au pairs.

harrietthespook Wed 01-Jun-11 13:21:18

The first two times worked really smoothly, we ended up with great APs and it took all of three wks to recruit. Done and dusted. Very happy camper.

It just didn't work this year for some reason. THe quality of the candidates wasn't the same as before. It may have just been the period of time we were looking and the candidates on AP World seemed to be better than I'd seen previously. I wouldn't read too much into it. I think it CAN happen and I think the message is you have to be flexible in your approach. I know from experience AP WOrld can be a nightmare too. You could well find your person through the agency in two weeks. Lots of people might have been happy with the people we didn't think were suitable for us.

Pollyanna I agree whatever route you choose - agency, website, gumtree - there can be hiccups from time to time.

harrietthespook Wed 01-Jun-11 13:22:34

Tiggers - just to be clear, our APs through the agency each stayed one school year. We haven't been through that many APs in one year. If that's what you meant.

tiggersreturn Wed 01-Jun-11 13:25:51

Thanks it was - I was a bit concerned that all 3 were this year hmm. I've already identified one that I like the sound of from the Abacus bunch. Any tips on interviewing etc? Do they help you out with that at all?

harrietthespook Wed 01-Jun-11 13:43:11

I haven't asked them for help with the questions.

I do ask them to send through a detailed job description first and also ensure that they can stay for the period of time we need them. The information I send through also includes a bit of information on what we do at the weekends (generally chauffeur the children around and run errands) and in the evenings as we are very very boring and I want them to realise we may not be diong much more than falling asleep in front of the TV.

I try to speak to them first over the phone and then via skype (webcam!) to get a feel of what the dynamic is like 'in person' and give them a chance to see the children.

I ask about their experience with childcare (what is the longest period of time they've looked after a child on their own), what hobbies they have and how they like to spend their free time, can they cook, have they ever had a job before, do they help out and home, what sort of meals can they cook. Have they spent any time away from home before? What are they looking to get out of their AP experience? Any health issues, treading carefully though. (usually allegeries come up in a discussion about pets.) I would really probe this last area to make sure they don't think they're coming over for a year long holiday if this is not what you can offer! Regarding the looking after a child on their own pt, this is not because they will have sole charge but to get a feel for their stamina levels!!!

For me a big part of it is hearing how good their English is personally and seeing how they interact with me and the children. It is possible to get a good feel for this via skyupe in my experience.

I always take up references and ask those people more detailed questions about how responsible they are, how much time off they've had!!! (You def need to ask tthis in my exp.)

I assume I have to do quite a lot of training so for me the right attitude is possibly the most important thing.

harrietthespook Wed 01-Jun-11 13:44:50

Aks if they have any questions too. I can't get too detailed here about this but this year the questions we had were very very illuminating!!!

harrietthespook Wed 01-Jun-11 13:45:28

If there is anything out of the ordinary about your location, the accommodation, the role make sure they know about it too. You don't want someone leaving after a week if you can help it.

tiggersreturn Wed 01-Jun-11 14:08:26

Thanks Harriet. That's really useful.

TabbyTwitchit Wed 01-Jun-11 18:36:23

Future Au Pair is a UK based (as opposed to German etc) Au Pair website set up by a host family and au pair team. They might be worth a try!

tiggersreturn Thu 02-Jun-11 21:58:32

Have you used them?

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